UK’s sweeping digital censorship bill becomes law

The UK’s Online Safety Bill finally became law yesterday, requiring ISPs to proactively block illegal and harmful material, from posts supporting terror groups to deepfake revenge porn to encouraging eating disorders; to require adult internet users to prove their age; and to establish reporting mechanisms. It makes social media legally responsible for what is posted on their platforms, and allows companies to be fined and executives to be imprisoned if they fail to do so.

Most controversially, it could require messaging platforms to allow the authorities access to private communications—an effective prohibition on end-to-end encryption—though the government has admitted this is not technically feasible and that it cannot yet be implemented.

Some technology firms are worried that some of the measures outlined in the bill won’t be able to be enforced, whilst digital rights campaigners say it could be a threat to freedom of expression.

But Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said it was “an historic moment that ensures the online safety of British society not only now, but for decades to come”.

If “Britain” weren’t a place it could be a word for the shame delta between being seen to do something and what is done.

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Rob Beschizza